For antique and vintage clock repair having a selection of quality tools is absolutely essential.

As an avid enthusiast and a keen learner over the past 7 years, I have been steadily building my knowledge of clock repair and with it a selection of essential clock tools.

Disclaimer. While not a trained horologist I have some advanced skills-sets but I am still learning as I go

Part I of this two-part series describes the basic tools for those just starting out. The tools/equipment described here are for the more advanced hobbyist/amateur horologist.

Some folks bush by hand and I applaud them for their patience and skill. I chose a bushing machine

Ultrasonic Cleaner: This Harbor Freight special will do for now but it is so low powered that a newer, more powerful machine is on the horizon. It does not perform as well as better quality machines and it has a limited load capacity. An eight minute limit for each cycle means that several cycles are required to properly clean clock parts. It is a start.

Ultrasonic cleaner
Ultrasonic cleaner

Spring winder: An essential tool. Disassembling clock movement also includes servicing the mainsprings. Mainsprings must be inspected for breaks, cracks and splits, cleaned of old oil and rust (as long as there is not too much rust) and lubricated prior to re-installing them into the movement. Too much rust and they should be discarded.  I generally do not replace springs in a movement unless they are quite set, or have breaks or cracks. I have found that the steel in the original movement is better quality than can be found today. Mounting the spring winder on a piece of hardwood provides a stable tool and allows it to be clamped to a work-desk.

Although there are other types of spring winders, the Olie Baker winder is one of the better choices in my view. It is well made and should last for years. If you can find a used one you will save a little.

Joe Collins has plans for a homemade spring winder that you can find on the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors site.

Mainspring contained in a clamp
Mainspring contained in a clamp
Mainspring servicing
Mainspring servicing; taking the clamp off to inspect and service the mainspring
Mainspring barrel
Mainspring barrels require collars supplied with the Olie Baker spring winder

Bergeon 6200 Bushing Machine: Some bush by hand and they are to be applauded for their patience and skill. I chose a bushing machine for the delicate work of installing bushings. This is the Bergeon 6200 which is made in Switzerland. It is exceptionally well made and relatively simple to use.

Chucks and reamers
Chucks and reamers

The machine can be bought separately or with a set of cutters and other hardware (above). The cutters can last 15 years or more. Of course, you must also have an assortment of correctly sized brass bushings that are purchased separately from any clock supply house.

To operate, a correct size cutter is placed in the bottom end of the steel shaft, holes are cut after which the new bushings are punched in place with a hammer head fitted to the shaft.

Bergeon Bushing Machine
Bergeon Bushing Machine
Punching the bushing home
Pressing the brass bushing into the drilled pivot hole
Six bushings on back plate
Six new bushings on the back plate of a Sessions Westminster A mantel clock
Clock repair is not as expensive as some might think especially when you spread your costs over months or years

Lathe: Good quality mini lathe are available from Sherline, Taig and others. A cost effective option is the Taig Miniature Lathe for metal. The Taig lathe was originally designed for precision machining of watch and clock parts; ideal for clock repair applications. The small office space in my home means that its compactness, portability and relative simplicity are attractive features.

Taig lathe with 1/4 hp motor
Taig lathe with 1/4 hp Marathon motor

Reference/Reading material: I recommend the Steven Conover series of repair manuals. The manuals are well written, detailed and are great resources for the beginner or the advanced amateur.

  • Steven G. Conover; Clock Repair Basics
  • Steven G. Conover; Striking Clock Repair Guide
  • Steven G. Conover; Chime Clock Repair

The purchase of clock supplies and equipment has become my personal journey. First, I acquired some basic clock repair tools when I began taking movements apart, then learned what was needed next and steadily built up my collection of tools and equipment.

Three years ago my first major purchase was the Olie Baker spring winder. Some months later came a Bergeon bushing machine complete with cutters and a supply of bushings and then, recently, my Taig mini with accessories. A mini lathe will allow me to advance my skills in clock repair. I will be able to polish and burnish pivots correctly and to replace worn or damaged pivots as well as other specialized repairs. As future challenges arise I will search out more specialized tools and equipment.

And finally

Set aside a specific goal, research your needs, build your tools and equipment acquisitions gradually and apply a reasonable budget. You will find that clock repair is not as expensive as you might think especially when the costs are spread over time and you can find some equipment on the used market.

Hope you found this interesting. If you have a tool or piece of equipment that you feel is absolutely indispensable, let me know.